This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GetPackin #CollectiveBias

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Summer travel is a staple in many families & truly American past time. We can all remember family road trips when we were kids and now so many of us are continuing that tradition with our children.  As great as road trips are, they can be messy. You know that feeling after you’ve been sitting in the car for hours to finally arrive at your destination? The car is dirty with trash from snacks all over the ground, everyone’s hands are sticky and that ‘dirty feeling’ just won’t go away. If you’re nodding your head then you definitely need a road trip essentials basket to keep you and your car organized & clean!

My summer vacation this year is a road trip around the pacific northwest with my college girlfriends! I’m excited for a week of lots of laughs, great adventures and spending time with my best friends. What I don’t want to deal with is a messy dis-organized car as we drive down the coast from town to town. My solution? The Road Trip Bin! It has all the essentials for a perfectly clean and organized road trip.

Here’s the items that I put in my road trip bin

I headed on over to Walmart to grab ALL these essentials, including the perfect road trip snacks: BELVITA Chocolate Sandwich Breakfast Biscuits, SWEDISH FISH Soft & Chewy Candy, OREO Mini Cookies and Single Serve NUTTER BUTTER Cookies!

Supply your own road trip bin with your chance to win weekly prizes and the grand prize through the Mondelez Summer Road Trip Sweepstakes. Enter now through 7/24!

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Mondelez Road Trip #GetPackinSweepstakes

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Walmart has a great in store coupon booklet with awesome savings on RITZ Cracker Sandwiches, BELVITA Sandwich Breakfast Biscuits, SWEDISH FISH Soft & Chewy Candy 1.9 lb. bags & TRIDENT Unwrapped Gum. Who doesn’t love a great deal? 

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

A little bit more info about each Road Trip Bin item:

Snacks! Stock up on fun snacks to keep everyone full during the ride. I love individual serving size snacks as they’re easy to pack and eat while in the car. RITZ Cracker Sandwiches, BELVITA Sandwich Breakfast Biscuits, SWEDISH FISH Soft & Chewy Candy  & TRIDENT Unwrapped Gum are all awesome for road trips. Not sure which snacks to get? Hello variety pack!

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Disinfecting wipes “My car was cleaner after a road trip” said no one ever. You know the feeling when you get that dirty sticky food residue from your hands ALL over everything? Then you’re stuck in the car for a couple extra hours? It’s the worst. Disinfecting wipes are a perfect way to ‘clean as you go’ in the car.

Face wipes Just as the car can get dirty, so can you! Seriously though, do you ever just feel like you need a shower after a road trip? My face ALWAYS feels greasy and it’s nice to be able to clean my face off without having to actually wash your face with soap and water.

Hand Sanitizer Do I need to say more?

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Plastic ziplock bags Do you ever get out of your car at the end of a road trip only to realize how much TRASH you’ve been accumulating in the car? Not only is it gross to have trash all over, but if it’s not in a proper bag, then it’s likely SPILLING all over. Surprisingly large plastic bags are the perfect solution. You can seal them up to ensure no spillage occurs. I always bring a couple plastic bags in a variety of sizes.

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Water bottles Keep yourself hydrated while travelling! Just make sure your water bottle fits in the beverage holders of your car. Caution: the more water bottles you bring, the more bathroom breaks you’re going to have 🙂

Chapstick Personally, I don’t go 10 feet out my house without chapstick so I would NEVER go on a long road trip without it. Sure enough you’re lips are dry and there’s no where to stop for miles!

Phone charger Our car has a phone charger plug-in so we always keep an extra charger in the glove compartment. Admittedly my phone is ALWAYS on low battery. Ops! If you’re using your phone for GPS like I always do this definitely isn’t a good thing! If your car doesn’t have plug-in, you can get a portable phone charger very reasonably priced.

Sunglasses Hopefully the sunniest days of your road trip won’t be when you’re in the car driving, but when you arrive at your destination. Yet driving with the sun in your eyes is never fun and in fact can be dangerous. I always carry sunglasses and even a baseball cap to help.

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Reading materials Nothing says Girls Weekend Road Trip like great music (80s anyone?) and lots of good magazines. As the driver, I always make one of my girl friends read the articles outloud to keep me entertained on the long drive.

Storage bin I love using square fabric bins. These always fit perfect in the back seat of our car and easy for everyone to get to! I prefer having a bin WITHOUT a cover so that its easier for everyone to grab from it.

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

And now we’re off to see the pacific northwest!

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

Need some fun road trip ideas? Check out these printables for lots fun ideas to keep your family entertained!

Any road trip essentials that I missed?

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

 

 

 

Planning a road trip? You'll need these top essential packed in your car for a short weekend trip or an all summer ultimate vacation!

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #newOREOThins #CollectiveBias

This city girl's gone camping and she's learned tips and tricks to make your next camping trip feel like you're back in the big city!

After spending a decade in Chicago, Joe & I moved to Seattle 3 years ago where we left behind our weekends of lots of cab rides, bright lights and tall sky scrapers for more outdoors oriented weekend activities (READ camping).

Yes, camping. Although I love nature as much as the next person, admittedly I was really nervous about camping!

Nervous because at the age of 32 I had never once gone camping. Not even back yard camping, glamping or even cabins. When Joe suggested spending a weekend camping during our first summer in Seattle, I had no clue what to pack, let alone what type of luggage to bring. (FYI, a suitcase is NOT the right answer.) After years of less than ideal camping packing, I’ve comprised a list of camping supplies EVERY city girls needs 🙂 .

The top items ever City Girl needs on their next camping trip! 

1 Not only does hiking work up an appetite, but putting a tent together??? That’s a workout in itself. You’ll want to have easy to grab snacks to keep you going throughout the day! OREO THINS are a perfect snack for camping. Not only do OREO THINS come in some fun new flavors (hello lemon!), it’s easy to bring these on during a day hike and for a crisp treat afterwards with the new OREO THINS 12 Pack! I stocked up at Walmart on several flavors, which was great because EVERYONE tends to want these during our hikes! (Score one point for the camping rookie!)

2 If you’re lucky enough to camp at a camp sight that has a bathroom, don’t expect a 4 star hotel accommodations. The first time we went camping I spend more time looking for a spot to place my toiletry bag than actually brushing my teeth. Let me be the one to tell you, there’s NO where to put your toiletry bag that looks appealing. That’s why S hooks are a total life saver. Hook it to the back of the stall door or on a ledge while you’re washing your face, brushing your teeth, etc. Brilliant.

This city girl's gone camping and she's learned tips and tricks to make your next camping trip feel like you're back in the big city!

3 No I’m not trying to start a new footwear fashion trend, but bear with me. These sandals are PERFECT for transitioning from your hiking shoes at the end of the day to hanging around the camp fire at night. Odds are that it will be chilly enough at night that you’ll want to wear socks, but after a long day of hiking, you might not want to slip in to another pair of shoes.

This city girl's gone camping and she's learned tips and tricks to make your next camping trip feel like you're back in the big city!

4 That feeling of just being dirty likely won’t go away until you get back home and take a shower. But having one-use face wipes will make a huge difference (and MUCH easier than washing your face). I even put a couple in clear plastic bags to take with me when we go hiking during the day.

5 I skipped the large full size hand sanitizers for several of these smaller hand sanitizers. I put them ALL over the campsite. I mean all over. One in our tent, one next to the food, one in my hiking bag and one in my toilet paper caddy … which brings me to …

6 The ONLY thing that’s worse than using the bathroom outside, is having to use damp or dirty toilet paper. Ugh. To make sure this NEVER happens to you, put your toilet paper role in an large clear plastic bag. While you’re at it, throw in your hand sanitizer and a flashlight. Remember all those times you get up in the middle of the night to use your bathroom in your house? Well it’s a little different in the middle of the night in the wilderness. Flashlight needed!

This city girl's gone camping and she's learned tips and tricks to make your next camping trip feel like you're back in the big city!

7 “Sleeping in the woods is so comfortable” said no one ever. Put your yoga matt to work and lay it down underneath your sleeping bag before going to bed. Although though it’s so thin, it makes a huge difference!

8 When we camp, we always bring so much stuff with us. Between all the food, cooking supplies, tent, sleeping bags, it takes up a lot of room in our trunk. I love using clear bags to put clothes and blankets in. Then when we’re searching for items in the trunk, we know exactly what is in each bag!

9 Impress all those serious campers with your ability to get the fire started! Plus who really has time to sit around and wait for the fire to finally start going?? Add a little petroleum jelly to a couple cotton balls. Then place several of these under the logs before starting the fire.

10 At the end of the weekend the last thing you want is for your car to be as dirty as you feel! Put those hiking shoes (or fancy sandals 🙂 ) in shower caps to prevent dirt from getting all over the floor of your car or trunk. One less thing to have to clean up when you get home!

After years of uncomfortable camping trips, I’ve finally mastered the packing … now if I could just get wifi to work in the wilderness.

This city girl's gone camping and she's learned tips and tricks to make your next camping trip feel like you're back in the big city!

Looking at these recent camping trips, I don’t know what I was waiting for all these years!

This city girl's gone camping and she's learned tips and tricks to make your next camping trip feel like you're back in the big city!

This city girl's gone camping and she's learned tips and tricks to make your next camping trip feel like you're back in the big city!

This city girl's gone camping and she's learned tips and tricks to make your next camping trip feel like you're back in the big city!

What’s your best city girl camping tip?!?

This city girl's gone camping and she's learned tips and tricks to make your next camping trip feel like you're back in the big city!

 

 

 

This city girl's gone camping and she's learned tips and tricks to make your next camping trip feel like you're back in the big city!

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Make a delicious corn on the cob recipe in just 5 minutes! Use your microwave and a couple extra ingredients for a yummy side to any meal!Make a delicious corn on the cob recipe in just 5 minutes! Use your microwave and a couple extra ingredients for a yummy side to any meal!

When I first started this series, never did I ever think I could find something that I could cook in 5 minutes …. but there’s a first time for everything 🙂 .

Although I’ve always loved corn on the cobb, I don’t eat it often. Mostly because i always assumed that it needed to be grilled or boiled. My grilling techniques are limited to knowing how to put the cover over the grill. That’s why I was really excited to learn from a friend that it’s possible to make corn on the cob in your MICROWAVE. And I know what you’re thinking. It must be gross, right? I assure you it’s pretty darn impressive.

Ingredients

  • Corn, husked
  • smoked paprika, to taste
  • 1 lime slice
  • A stem of cilantro, chopped
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Paper towels

Directions

Microwave the butter in a small microwave safe jar for 30 seconds. Mix in the lime juice, cilantro, and smoked paprika. With a basting brush, makes sure to get the mixture all around  the corn.

Run a paper towel under your kitchen faucet for one second and ring out excess water. Wrap the paper towel around the corn.

Microwave for 5 minutes on high on a microwavable plate.

Let it cool for a couple minutes with the paper towel still wrapped around (it will be hot!).

Add black pepper and salt to taste.

Enjoy!

Make a delicious corn on the cob recipe in just 5 minutes! Use your microwave and a couple extra ingredients for a yummy side to any meal!

 

 

 

Make a delicious corn on the cob recipe in just 5 minutes! Use your microwave and a couple extra ingredients for a yummy side to any meal!

Make a delicious corn on the cob recipe in just 5 minutes! Use your microwave and a couple extra ingredients for a yummy side to any meal!

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Keeping your computer virus free and healthy is easier than you think! 9 things you should start doing NOW to ensure your computer runs smoothly!

Joe & I had a serious heart to hear last weekend.

It was about my computer.

Yes, my computer. Apparently at my rate of how I take care (or more accurately DON’T take care) of my computer, I’ll be having to purchase new ones each year. And there’s no way I have a budget for that.

When I left my job earlier this year, I turned in my work laptop, meaning I had to pony up for a new personal computer. Fortunately I handed that responsibility over to Joe to research and found me a computer that was both affordable and would work for what I needed…. Email, Pinterest, and Blogging.

But before I turned on my brand new computer, Joe gave me the lay of the land so that I don’t ruin this computer too. (Yes, there’s a backstory)

Here’s his top tips to keep your computer virus free and running smoothly

1 Install and update an anti-virus. Ok. Ok. This sounds like an obvious one. But don’t let a day go by without installing AND ensuring it’s active. Just because you installed an antivirus years ago, doesn’t mean it’s still active. Make sure you’re up to date on your payments and double check to make sure it’s running. We use McAfee, but there’s definitely a wide variety to choose from!

2 Always always ALWAYS install the updates on your computer when it says to. There’s absolutely no reason to sit on these. Yes, this is a screenshot of over 200 updates needed. Yes, this was my old personal computer. No, its not working anymore. Surprised?

Keeping your computer virus free and healthy is easier than you think! 9 things you should start doing NOW to ensure your computer runs smoothly!

3 Skip the peer to peer downloading (aka free music, bootleg videos, etc). First, it’s illegal, but you’re also pretty much telling the world “Please give me a virus. Please”. In my college days, I would download videos and music from Napster (remember them?). Fortunately I had a deal with Joe where I would do his laundry and he would fix my computer. Let’s just say eventually he started going to a laundry mat because it was no longer a fair deal 🙂 .

4 Turn off and restart your computer once a day. EVERY day. This one was tough for me. I’m that girl who just pushes down my computer screen and assumes that means my computer is turned off. Well apparently it’s not.

Keeping your computer virus free and healthy is easier than you think! 9 things you should start doing NOW to ensure your computer runs smoothly!

5 Remove stuff you don’t use from your start up folder so computer turns on faster. A lot of companies have deals with computer companies to automatically have their programs downloaded on your new computer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re not going to use those programs, you might as well remove it from your computer. For me, it’s all the video games that showed up when I first turned on my computer.

6 If searching on your computer starts to become slow, you may need to run a disk clean up and disk defragmenter. Overtime your computer files become scattered over your hard drive causing searches to run slow.  Typically running these once a month is sufficient. (Add it to your to-do list!) On newer computers, simply search for “disk clean up” and “defragmenter”. On older computers, go to your settings to find these.

7 Back up data regularly. Storing anything super important in only one location is a recipe for disaster.  Even if you’re convinced your computer is healthy. Plus, online cloud storage is becoming extremely affordable. Think: Dropbox. Google Drive, etc. Even Carrie Bradshaw jumped on the bandwagon, but only after disaster hit. Don’t be Carrie.

8 Uninstall applications you don’t need anymore. Similar to removing necessary applications when you first get your new computer, as time goes on, if you notice that you no longer need a program anymore that you previously downloaded, remove it from your computer. Remember, simply deleting the icon on your home screen is not actually deleting the program. Go into your settings to fully remove the program.

9 Overheating can cause your computer to shut down and even cause permanent problems. Even though our Seattle weather never gets particularly hot, somehow I’m able to find the warmest spot in our house and leave my laptop there. Joe was not impressed.

Keeping your computer virus free and healthy is easier than you think! 9 things you should start doing NOW to ensure your computer runs smoothly!

Cheers to your computer virus free and running smoothly!

Keeping your computer virus free and healthy is easier than you think! 9 things you should start doing NOW to ensure your computer runs smoothly!

Some of the links in this list are affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you any extra, but I earn a little commission if you decide to purchase. Regardless of whether or not I receive a commission, I only recommend products that I personally use and genuinely recommend! Thanks for helping support this site!

 

 

Keeping your computer virus free and healthy is easier than you think! 9 things you should start doing NOW to ensure your computer runs smoothly!

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In today's busy world it can even be difficult to stay organized with the person you spend the most time with! Stay organized between spouses w/ these tips!

Joe & I are a busy couple; between long hours at work, decent amount of travel, lots of projects around the house and a new puppy to take care of, we always seem to have a lot going on. Since we’re both constantly on the go, we try to be intentional about keeping coordinated with ‘life stuff’ between the two of us. The system isn’t perfect (is any?), but we’ve found these 6 things help us stay organized!

top 6 ways to stay organized between spouses

1 Calendar Working in an office, we both are glued to our email and calendars for work purposes. We try to replicate that in our personal life. For example, Joe & I only have one car. Living downtown Seattle, this works really well for us, but does take coordination. Anytime one of us knows that we’ll need the car for a future date, we make sure to send the other a calendar invite with the times so that neither will forget. Another common calendar invite on both our calendars is our Thursday night reminder to take out the trash. Without it, we’d be drowning in garbage 🙂 .

2 Clutter Baskets are our miracle cure as it relates to clutter around our house. If either of us sees stuff from the other person sitting out that shouldn’t be, we’re allowed to store in the basket (but no where else). We also then know if we can’t find something, it’s likely in the baskets. Cleaning up a room can now actually be a 5 minute task!

3 Groceries I’m the grocery shopper of our duo and Joe is the cook. While these roles play to our strengths (arr…. mask my weakness in cooking), it requires us to be coordinated. We both use the grocery list app Anylist to coordinate weekly grocery shopping and meal planning. Joe is able to add groceries that he needs to make his fancy meals, while I can add on to the list for the essentials. Regardless of which app or method you use, I highly recommend you having a system to ensure that there’s a joint list for groceries AND needed household items.

4 To Do Lists No one has to force me to make a list, but I didn’t always keep a “Joe” list. I felt kind of silly having a list of things to talk to Joe about. I mean, do I really need to write down conversations to have with him to remember? Well, actually yes, you should write down ALL your to-do items, even if it’s things to discuss with your spouse. For example, asking Joe which dates he wants to travel for our upcoming vacation so that I can book the flights, deciding if we’re going to put a fence in our yard, or selecting a puppy classes to take Reagan to.

5 A Minute a Day I like to spend a couple minutes a day with Joe talking about our schedule for the rest of the week (or the next week).  Now having a puppy, we’re learning to coordinate our schedules to take care of Reagan so chatting about our schedule regularly has been really helpful.

6 Meetings OK, this might sound a little overkill, but bear with me. Once a month we try to spend at least an hour going through ‘house things’. Going through our finances, figuring out vacations for the year, random items from the to-do list that we forget to talk about. It’s not always necessary and we don’t do this EVERY month, but the idea of having a scheduled time to just run through stuff is really helpful. I compare it to being a work and passing a coworker in the hall to discuss work things vs scheduling a meeting in a conference room. Yes, the drive bys are great, but sometimes it’s more productive to schedule a time to discuss. (No I don’t book a conference room for these meetings with Joe 🙂 )

In today's busy world it can even be difficult to stay organized with the person you spend the most time with! Stay organized between spouses w/ these tips!

Any tips that you use to stay organized?!
In today's busy world it can even be difficult to stay organized with the person you spend the most time with! Stay organized between spouses w/ these tips!

 

 

 

This post has been featured in: Girl xoxo & Org Junkie

In today's busy world it can even be difficult to stay organized with the person you spend the most time with! Stay organized between spouses w/ these tips!

 

In today's busy world it can even be difficult to stay organized with the person you spend the most time with! Stay organized between spouses w/ these tips!

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In December Joe & I picked up our 7 week old little doberman girl, Reagan, a couple weeks earlier than originally planned. Fortunately we had done a lot of preparation so we were ready for our adorable (and WILD!) bundle of joy! Here’s our top 10 things that we did to prepare for a new puppy!

Before bringing home your new pup, take a look at our list of the top 10 steps to prepare for a new puppy to be as prepared as you can be!Here’s our top 10 tips to prepare for a new puppy! 

1 Location location location | Decide where all the puppy stuff is going to go. For example, where will your puppy sleep? Where will you bath her? Where will you store all the supplies? Where will her food bowls go? We actually tested out a couple of locations for the food bowls to find a spot that would work!

2 Dog sitter | We took a look at our vacation schedule to decide if there were any trips that we could bring Reagan with us as opposed to others where we would need to get a puppy sitter. We found some great folks to watch Reagan on Rover.com.

3 Puppy classes | My dog training classes have young puppy classes as early as 8 weeks. We found that it was well worth the money to get her in to a puppy class right away as opposed to waiting a couple months. This way we’re encouraging the right behaviors from the beginning. I also had NO idea how to train a dog.

Before bringing home your new pup, take a look at our list of the top 10 steps to prepare for a new puppy to be as prepared as you can be!

4 Off limits rooms | You’ll want to decide what rooms, if any, are off limits. We opted to make the bedrooms off limits or now, possibly allowing at a later time. For us it was easier to only give Reagan partial access to the house. We had to get disciplined with keeping the bedroom doors shut at all times as Reagan has a nack for getting in to things that she shouldn’t!

5 Off limits furniture | On a similar note, will any furniture be off limits? We decided that beds were absolutely off limits, but our family room couch was OK. In fact the family couch is the only ON limits piece of furniture that Reagan is allowed on. Admittedly we initially we against letter her up on the couch, but changed our mind a month in 🙂 .

6 Find a vet | We spent some time researching vets near by to find the best option for us. We not only found a vet but also a dog emergency room that was close by our home. Make sure to call your chosen vet is accepting new patients!

Before bringing home your new pup, take a look at our list of the top 10 steps to prepare for a new puppy to be as prepared as you can be!

7 Schedule | Joe & I sat down to create a daily schedule of puppy duty. Remember that your new puppy is going to need pretty much constant attention. We alternated evenings & mornings AND overnight duty. For the first month or so Reagan needed to be taken outside in the middle of the night so one of us would set an alarm to get up.

8 Puppy food | We reached out to our breeder ahead of time to find out what type of puppy food she will be eating when we pick her up. Even if you want to switch food, you’ll need to have some of their current stuff on hand so that you can make that transition smooth and over the course of at least a week or two.

9 Make a list and check it twice | Before we bought ANYTHING, we compiled a list of everything that we thought we needed. Then we showed a couple of our dog owning friends. Sure enough these friends had some great suggestions to both add to and take off our list.  I made my own list of rather surprising puppy supplies that I would have never thought we needed!

10 Shopping | A couple weeks before we brought home Reagan, we did all the shopping at once. This was more efficient, but also helped us not go crazy buying unnecessary puppy items.

Before bringing home your new pup, take a look at our list of the top 10 steps to prepare for a new puppy to be as prepared as you can be!
Before bringing home your new pup, take a look at our list of the top 10 steps to prepare for a new puppy to be as prepared as you can be!

Some of the links in this list are affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you any extra, but I earn a little commission if you decide to purchase. Regardless of whether or not I receive a commission, I only recommend products that I personally use and genuinely recommend! Thanks for helping support this site!

 

Before bringing home your new pup, take a look at our list of the top 10 steps to prepare for a new puppy to be as prepared as you can be!
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As much as I try to fight it, there’s no getting away from email. So instead of fighting it, I’ve learn to accept it as part of my daily routine and make it work for me. Over the years I’ve picked up some tips and tricks that I live by to keep my email organized.

Is your inbox overwhelming you? It's easier than you think to ruthlessly keep your email organized with these surprising tips & tricks!

Folders

I have several folders created within my inbox, but there’s 3 that really help me to stay organized. 1) Waiting to hear back: I bcc myself on emails that I really need a response from others on and then move it to this folder. If you don’t bcc yourself on the email, you can simply dig these out of your sent folder. 2) To do next week: I check this folder every Sunday and follow up as needed. These are emails that aren’t urgent and/or will take a while to respond to. If I know an email isn’t going to get responded to this week, I like being able to move it out of my inbox. 3) Confirmations: including flight confirmations, Amazon orders, etc.

Filter, Filter, Filter

As a Gmail user, I use the Promotions & Social filters religiously! If you receive an email that isn’t worthy of going straight to your inbox, but instead is more of a Promotion or Social (think Facebook notification emails), simply drag it over to the Promotion or Social tab and click “yes” to the ‘do this action next time’ pop up.

The 2 Minute Rule

The two-minute rule can really apply to any task you have, including emails. If it can be done in 2 minutes, do it now! It will get off your mind and out of your inbox. Otherwise you’ll likely spend MORE than 2 minutes on the email every time you open your inbox and see that email sitting there. Most emails can be answered in five sentences or less so there’s no reason not to tackle!

Is your inbox overwhelming you? It's easier than you think to ruthlessly keep your email organized with these surprising tips & tricks!

Schedule

Years ago I read somewhere that the average person checks their email before brushing their teeth in the morning. I thought that sounded ridiculous until I realized that I did that EVERY day! I’m also guilty of being in the car as a passenger or even standing in line at the grocery store while checking email with no intention of replying right then. STOP THIS! It’s wasted time if you’re not able to do anything about the email you’re reading. Yes, I realize some of us have jobs where we need to be reading email at all times, but unless you’re one of those people, grocery line email checking is probably not productive!

Instead, schedule times in your day where you’re going to focus on email. Even if that means 10 minutes every hour to start off with. I started off scheduling 10 times a day (yes 10!) and then was able to move down to 3 specific times a day where I’m focusing on reading & responding to new incoming email.

Turn OFF Notifications

My phone (and ipad) used to light up every time I received a new email and of course I would jump to read it. I’d see the email popup on my ipad while Joe & I were watching TV and spend the entire time wondering what the email was about instead of watching the show. What a waste! Now this is an obvious tip, but turn OFF all those notifications. I don’t even want to know if I have new messages until I actually go into my email account.

Unsubscribe

The last step for organizing your email should be to unsubscribe from emails you don’t want to see. I used to simply delete the emails instead of taking the 30 seconds (or less!) to unsubscribe. I always worried that maybe sometime I’d miss a future email that I really wanted so I wouldn’t unsubscribe. I changed my tune and strongly believe in getting OFF the email lists that are not benefiting you. Yes, you could always just delete the emails when they come to your inbox, but wouldn’t it be nice if you never received them in the first place?

Is your inbox overwhelming you? It's easier than you think to ruthlessly keep your email organized with these surprising tips & tricks!

May you all see an EMPTY inbox!

Is your inbox overwhelming you? It's easier than you think to ruthlessly keep your email organized with these surprising tips & tricks!

 

 

 

Is your inbox overwhelming you? It's easier than you think to ruthlessly keep your email organized with these surprising tips & tricks!

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When I first started creating my blog is was much easier said than done. There’s so many options, tools and resources to choose from. Of course I had no idea which to choose from nor what I really needed. For me, it’s been an ongoing learning process … as technology changes, as my blog grows and I offer more to my readers, I constantly have to evaluate the resources I’m currently using. At first I found this completely overwhelming (wordpress.com vs wordpress.org. Seriously. not. the. same. thing. WTF?), but now I find the whole technology piece kind of exciting.

Below is my list of blogging resources that I’m currently using and have found the most success with. I hope this is helpful to all of you current and future bloggers!

The ultimate list of blogging resources to make sure you're using! Tips & tricks to help you be the best blogger you can be!HOW TO BLOG RESOURCES

Building a Framework: I found Abby’s blog through Pinterest about a year ago and loved her writing style. I first purchased her Starter Package ebook. I was hooked. Her information was so easy to follow and I appreciated that it was written for those who wasn’t tech savvy in the world of blogs. I really resonated with her story of having little confidence in her blog that she didn’t show her friends or family at first. Loved the ebook so much that I upgraded to her Master Package that includes video tutorials (being a visual person, these were super helpful). Added awesome bonus is that whenever she updates her ebooks, I’ll always receive an updated version.

How to Blog for Profit: Without Selling Your Soul: I learned about Ruth (author) from seeing her online blogging course referenced by so many bloggers, eliteblogacademy.com. The price was a little steep for me and registration wasn’t yet open, so I opted for her book. I can only imagine what the course is like because the book amazing. Every page is filled with great content and tips. No BS filler pages. I could barely take notes because I’d basically be rewriting the book. Yeah, you can say that I’m a fan.

WEB HOSTING / THEMES

Media Temple: This is the only hosting site I’ve used (although there’s MANY to choose from!) and it’s been working great for me so far. I’ve only had to call their customer service a couple times, one for a really stupid question and then one for a really stupid error on my part that turned in to a really technical coding question. Both times they were extremely helpful. I selected Media Temple after some digging on what other bloggers were using and it seems to be the industry standard with medium to large size blogs. I like that it has various packages based on my blog size & page views, which means someone like me who is just starting off can stay with Media Temple as my blog (hopefully) grows. The idea of switching hosting sites doesn’t sound like my idea of a fun Friday night 🙂 . So choose wisely for your hosting site!

Does this sound overwhelming? Don’t worry, it did for me too! I created a step by step guide to help you through setting up your own blog!

Studio Press Genesis Framework: Once you have a hosting site, you’ll need a framework in order to build your site. The Genesis Framework is a very common option and supports ‘responsive themes’, meaning it will look great on mobile devices. Admittedly I didn’t do a lot of research on other frameworks once I realized the popularity of the Genesis Framework (I had no desire to go rouge on something I knew nothing about). It’s popular for a reason!

Pretty Darn Cute Theme: The last piece to the puzzle is your theme. Think of a theme as the aesthetics of your blog. You’ve got our hosting site and framework and now you need to make it pretty. To me, this was the fun part! I’d compare it to going to a party: you’ve got the invite (hosting site), you know the dress code (framework) and now you get to pick your outfit (theme). OK, this is a stretch, but you get the idea. So many of the Pretty Darn Cute themes matched the style I was looking for that it was actually hard to choose (I was going for simple and clean). The tutorials and suggested plug-ins were incredibly helpful to a rookie like me. Also, all these themes are ‘responsive’ meaning it looks great on mobile apps.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Buffer: I use three social media “helpers”. For Twitter I use Buffer, which allows me to draft my tweets in advance and Buffer will then publish them at a future time. I use the free option with allows me to draft up to 10 posts at a time. I can customize WHEN the tweets will post, but I opted to go with Buffer’s suggested times, as I’m NO expert in this field. There’s both an app on web version, but I find myself most often using the web option.

Publish: The second “helper” I use is Publish for Instagram. This also allows you to draft your pics & descriptions ahead of time, yet it will not actually post in your Instagram account for you. Instead it will give you a message on your phone when your pic is scheduled to post. (The inability to post automatically is due to Instagram’s API, not Publish.)

Viraltag: Viraltag is the final helper that I use.  This tool publishes all my posts to Pinterest for me so that I can continually be moving my new and old posts out through my boards and my group boards without spamming everyone with a zillion pins going out at the same time. Admittedly at first, I didn’t think this was necessary (and that I could build some badass spreadsheet to track when and where to push each pin). The reality the only fun part was building that badass spreadsheet because the tedious task of managing so many different posts was beyond ridiculous. The cost is $30 (again I was hesitant), but I became a huge fan.  There’s a 14 day free trial. At minimum, it’s worth trying out for free. Plus if you purchase through my link, you’ll get a $15 credit.

FONTS

Font Bundles: I had always been nervous to venture in to the world of purchasing fonts. Sounds totally confusing, expensive and time consuming. That was until I stumbled upon Font Bundles. From my research, this is pretty much the cheapest & most straight forward way to buy fonts. I like that they offer font packages, meaning I can purchase a group of fonts, sometimes up to 30 or so for roughly $30. This was really beneficial because it allowed me to search through many different fonts to pick which I like best for the given project I’m working on. (I used Font Bundles for my logo) Also, there’s no ‘catch’. Often when purchasing fonts, you’ll have to pay annually and have tons of weird stipulations on when/where you can use the fonts. Font Bundles doesn’t have any of that.

PHOTOGRAPHY

My Camera: I have a Canon PowerShot G16 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera (longest camera name ever). I opted to purchase the bundle back with the tripod and other accessories because the cost was only marginally more and I knew the tripod would come in handy. (It has!) I’m in no way a photography expert, but this camera seemed to be complex but simple enough for me, if that makes sense.

iPhone: admittedly a lot of my pictures just come from my iPhone. I used to think that good photos could never come from a phone, but I’ve been happily surprised on what I’ve been able to do with my iPhone 5S, especially with the built in photo filter options. Plus, the reality is I always forget to take my camera with me. So there’s that 🙂 .

VSCOcam: A step up from just using the standard iPhone filters is the VSCOcam app. A friend introduced me to this when I begged her for her secret in her beautiful facebook photos. My #nofilter hashtag as officially gone out the window.

Picmonkey: This photo editing site also allows me to add wording right on to my photos (think Pinterest Pins). Really nice ‘two for one’! It’s free, but I opted to go with the paid option ($33/year) due to the additional font styles & editing options. I’m barely tipping the iceberg on the functionality of Picmonkey. You’ll definitely want to have a way to edit your photos on your computer and add wording. If you’re already a sophisticated photography, you may need something more advanced. But for a rookie like me, this works perfectly.

PLUG-INS

Akismet: This is a very very popular plug-in for combating spam in your post comments. I forget I even have this plug-in, which means it’s absolutely doing it’s job.

Send Email Only on Reply to My Comment: This sends an email to the person who commented on your blog once you reply to their comment so that they don’t have to remember to continually check your blog to see if you responded. Ummm GENIUS.

Favicon by RealFaviconGenerator: A favicon is the icon associated with a URL that is displayed in the browser bar (don’t worry, I had to google this too). I wanted to change mine from what my Theme provided. Thus mine is now a heart shape. Super easy as you simply upload your new icon into the plug-in.

Genesis eNews Extended: If you’re collecting contact information to do a mailing list/newsletter, I highly recommend this plug-in. I use this at the top of my site. It’s essentially the link between my mailchip (email marketing software) and my site.

JQuery Pin It Button For Images: As we all know Pinterest is king for lifestyle bloggers. So it goes without saying you need to pin your posts. This will create an automatic ‘pin it’ button and link to all your photos. I specifically like JQuery because it was really easy to upload a customized ‘pin it’ button, as I wanted mine to be black and white as opposed to the standard Pinterest red.

PopUp Ally Pro: Popups are a HUGE way to increase your email lists, but also your social media accounts (I’m currently running a popup on my blog asking my visitors to like my Facebook account). PopUp Ally is the industry standard for website popups. They have a free version that’s great. I just recently started paying for their pro version, which provides responsive smart phone popups (aka- the pop up is formatted in a nice version for an iphone user). Since over 80% of my pageviews come from visitors on their smart phones, this was a no brainer for me. PopUp Ally “pro” has a 21 day trial period at no cost, so it’s worth testing out even if you don’t want to pay for it afterwards. Remember, email lists are crucial to blog growth, so make sure you’re collecting those emails from the start!

The ultimate list of blogging resources to make sure you're using! Tips & tricks to help you be the best blogger you can be!

KEEPING ORGANIZED

So I obviously pride myself on being organized, but let tell you, starting a blog was overwhelming. I think it was all the NEW information and things I needed to research. I’m a paperless gal, so putting all my information and to-do lists in an online form is second nature to me. Personally I’ve been using Evernote for quite a long time (for my day job and personal), so I just added a new ‘notebook’ for blogging. Now starting to use Evernote is NOT for the faint of heart. Totally worth it in my opinion but takes some getting used to. If you’re pretty tech savvy, you can learn it on your own, but a couple of blogging friends of mine have recommended this guide. Microsoft has their version called OneNote. Being from Microsoft homeland (Seattle), I know LOTS of people who swear by OneNote. I had just started using Evernote years ago and got too used to it to try a different option.

Google: To keep my blogging separate (and organized), I created a separate Google account which provided me with an email address (thecrazyorganizedblog{at}gmail{dot}com), Google+ account (which I haven’t done anything with it yet), and calendar. The calendar feature is where I plot out all my future posts so that I make sure I know what will be posted for the coming months. Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE (not as much as I love coffee, but close) their survey feature in Google. I’ve used it for creating surveys for my readers. It’s basic but really easy to use.

EMAIL DISTRIBUTION LIST

MailChimp: I had used MailChimp at work so I was familiar with it and to be honest, at this point I couldn’t handle any new technology.  So by default I went with MailChimp for my newsletter. Later I did do some researching to find out what others were using and fortunately MailChimp seemed to be the leader! Probably because the user interface is really clean and easy. Also, it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers. Once you get more there’s a tier based pricing model, but that’s probably a good problem to have :).

The ultimate list of blogging resources to make sure you're using! Tips & tricks to help you be the best blogger you can be!This post has been featured in: Inside the Fox Den

Some of the links in this list are affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you any extra, but I earn a little commission if you decide to purchase. Regardless of whether or not I receive a commission, I only recommend products that I personally use and genuinely recommend. And all of the blogging resources above are ones I’m currently using NOW! Thanks for helping support my blog!

 

 

The ultimate list of blogging resources to make sure you're using! Tips & tricks to help you be the best blogger you can be!

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